My best pignoli cookie

5 Dec
I am not going to bother being humble about this, okay. For some absurd reason I was gifted an ability to produce a fine pignoli cookie.
A very fine pignoli cookie.
As the holidays approach, I anticipate producing several batches of the chewy, almondy things. Just last week a delivery went out to Shyster Jersey Lawyer Friend. She had intervened on my behalf in a matter of (absolutely no conceivable) consequence. Still, my social etiquette-powered GPS pointed me in the direction of reciprocity. Shyster being rather sweet of tooth, cookies seemed the way to go.
A specialty of Southern Italy, pignoli cookies (so named for their outer layer of pine nuts) are a beloved dolce among Italian-Americans, especially around the holidays. It is not always easy to find a really good example of the cookie, as getting just the right texture and degree of sweetness can be tricky. Pignoli cookies must be chewy but not soft; sweet, but mildly so.
On the other hand, I can make a damned good cookie. So how hard can it be, right?
The full recipe for the dough is below, but there is not much to it at all; it is mainly almond paste and sugar, and takes only a few minutes to prepare. Once it’s made just put the dough in a bowl so you can start forming the cookies. In a separate bowl you’ve got your raw pine nuts.
The size of the cookie is up to you, but I make them about two inches around. All you do is pinch a bit of dough with your fingers and begin to form what approximates a cookie shape. You’ll see a separate bowl filled with water at the top. It’s best to wet your fingers before pinching a piece of dough; things go a lot more smoothly that way, believe me.
The only thing left to do now is roll the dough around in the pine nuts.
Then arrange the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and toss it in the oven.
About half an hour later you’ve got these pretty swell cookies to enjoy.
In this particular case it was a shyster lawyer from New Jersey who actually got to enjoy them, but you get the idea.
Pignoli Cookies
Makes about a dozen cookies
1 8-oz can almond paste (do NOT use the tubes; the texture is different)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
3 tbsp flour
1 extra large egg white
8 oz raw pignoli (pine nuts)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F
In a food processor, crumble the almond paste, then add the sugars and flour and mix until fine
Add the egg white and mix until dough forms
Empty the pignoli into a bowl
Scoop out small amounts of the dough (wet hands help and so I keep a bowl filled with water on hand), then roll in pignoli until coated
Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes
Rotate the sheet and bake another 10 minutes, or until cookies are golden
Allow to cool, give a light dusting of confectioners sugar and serve

19 Responses to “My best pignoli cookie”

  1. Fred December 5, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Signor Polpetto: Pignoli nuts are like gold. Pignoli cookies are like gold to the nth power. Do you not toast your nuts? Take that comment any way you want, but I am still taking about the pignolis. I found the best way to do so without burning them is to heat a small nonstick skillet and then turn off the burner before adding the pignolis. They brown, but don't burn. Foolproof.

  2. Mister Meatball December 6, 2011 at 2:58 am #

    Fred: I don't toast them, no. But your method does sound foolproof. I will try next time Shyster Lawyer pretends to do me an important favor.

  3. Ciao Chow Linda December 6, 2011 at 3:17 am #

    I always make my friend Lilli's knock-out recipe for these cookies and they have no flour. But yours, with the little bit of flour, look and sound great. I don't toast my pine nuts either – they get browned as the cookie bakes.

  4. Jeannie December 6, 2011 at 5:58 am #

    These sounds super delicious! But then pine nuts are so expensive so they'd better be tasty huh!

  5. Claudia December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    Never made them with any flour – maybe your flour is the secret – mine can get a wee too chewy. I did invite the pignoli to jump off the page. But they stayed put. Alas.

  6. Mister Meatball December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    A little bit of flour does seem to make a difference, yeah. Helps to get a nicer texture, I think,

  7. Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti December 7, 2011 at 3:59 am #

    My all time favorite cookie,Mr, Meatball! I grab them off all the cookie trays whenever I see them and leave the plain butter cookies behind. My only wish? I wish that almost all pignoli nuts being sold these days didn't come from China!

  8. Mary December 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    These look gorgeous. I'll have to give your recipe a try. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  9. Anonymous December 8, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    pignoli cookies. Best cookie EV-AH. And now that most pine nuts you can buy are from China, you have the beginning of the long-overdue (and much desired) Chinese-Italian cuisine. The mind boggles at the next collaboration!

  10. Anonymous December 9, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    Hi Mr, Meatball,Costco sells a 1.5lb bag of pine nuts phenomenally cheaper than anywhere I've seen. It's been awhile since I've bought some, so I don't remember the price very well, it was maybe around $15.–aw

  11. MelissaK December 19, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    Mr. Meatball, THANK YOU! I found you by trying to find a good Pignoli cookie recipe after eating way too many from Vaccaro's in Baltimore. I am SO excited to make these, even if I don't get my act together until after the holidays. But your recipes are like reliving my childhood (albeit NOT in an Italian household) Due to the neighbors and many friends I consider myself Italian because I \”play one on TV\”…kind of like \”I slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night\”. So, I would Love to know if you have a good Greens and Beans recipe?? I have not found one that takes me back to \”Briar Hill\” outside of Youngstown, Ohio. If you can help….I would be forever grateful!!!

  12. Mister Meatball December 19, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    Thanks, Melissa. I just wing the beans & greens but will try and write it down and get it on the blog this winter. MM

  13. Gchen August 31, 2016 at 8:58 pm #

    Hi. i haven't been able to find almond paste in a can. Do you mean Almond Cake & Pastry Filling, like by Solo brand? Solo also has an Almond PASTE, but it is in a plastic wrap inside a little box, very firm consistency just like all other almond paste. Thanks for helping me clarify.

  14. Mister Meatball September 1, 2016 at 10:10 am #

    I've never used the \”filling\” that you described but it appears the ingredients are not the same as plain almond paste, and so my guess is that the products are different and not interchangeable. If it were me I would stick with the paste, not the filling.

  15. Anonymous October 12, 2016 at 7:15 pm #

    These cookies are fabulous. I have tried a few other recipes but this one is the best. That small amount of flour makes all the difference. Thank you so much for all of your wonderful recipes. Laurie G

  16. Mister Meatball October 14, 2016 at 9:54 am #

    I'm so glad. Thanks for letting me know. MM

  17. Pat Palumbo December 22, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

    These are wonderful, but find them a little too dense. I will try reducing the flour by 1 tbsp to see if that helps.


  1. Almond cookies | Mister Meatball - January 2, 2021

    […] reason I’m not entirely certain. See, I get a lot of emails around the holidays asking about my pignoli cookie recipe. Some ask why I use a little flour (I think it improves the texture and makes the cookies easier to […]

  2. Chocolate pignoli cookies | Mister Meatball - January 3, 2021

    […] I’m not a man who messes with tradition. And yet here we are, fiddling with one of the most traditional recipes of all, the pignoli cookie. […]

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